These times are indeed fragile because of a combination of factors which have coalesced to pose formidable threats to the continuous existence of Nigeria as a united political entity. There are varying degrees of socio-political agitations from sections of the Nigerian nation State that have bottled up angst and perceived deep seated feelings of alienation from the scheme of things. Some of these crises and agitations are political in nature emanating from the missing links and/or collapsing leadership qualities at many levels of the governance process all around the political entity known as Nigeria whereas others boiling agitations can be attributed to some policy missteps in deploying the necessary institutional mechanisms to resolve the festering crises of confidence amongst the various segments of the society that make up our nation state.
This writer has often believed that the Nigerian State has not sufficiently utilised the potentially rich human resources within the many institutions created over the years by successive administrations for the promotion of national unity and the integration of the different segments of the Nigerian State. There are still scattered feelings and perceptions of mutual mistrust and lack of social cohesions amongst and within the component parts that constitute the nation state of Nigeria.
These unsettled and unsettling perceptions of alienation by certain component parts of the country are further aggravated by the seeming inability of those who hold oversight powers to strengthen institutions and deliver the relevant institutional support to enable them activate inbuilt mechanisms to achieve their mandates which largely and substantially are tied to the need to promote national integration. The above thinking came to the fore recently when President Muhammadu Buhari made a very profound and deeply philosophical statement on the essence of setting up of the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC).
The immediate rational consequence of that speech by the President goes to show what can be achieved by way of reuniting a rapidly divided nation if the concept of the NYSC scheme is to be comprehensively adopted and the needed funding components approved by the National Assembly to enable the institutional deployment of trained minds and resources towards the consolidation of the mandate of the NYSC project. Reading through the Presidential speech also reminds the audience that the rash of agitations and restiveness of mostly young Nigerians can be resolved if participants of the NYSC scheme are empowered to function as positive agents of change and national integration.
The NYSC is set up basically to provide the avenue for the acquisition of basic youth leadership skills which are to be deployed specifically to build a united Nigerian nation devoid of constant political agitations which threatens national integration. Brigadier General Sule Zakari Kazaure, the current director general, must be a lucky man to have received Presidential commendation twice now since he assumed office only few months ago. Observers are of the opinion that the Presidential commendation is a symbol of the need and desire by the Nigerian people to see that the NYSC continues to live up to its billing in line with the aspirations of the founding fathers.
Recently, a rancour free management promotional examination was conducted by the NYSC under the strict adherence of the rules of engagement and those who merited promotions based on their performance in both the written examination and their practical applications of skills in running their offices were promoted.
The current hierarchy was said to have released the results on time so as to beat any kind of external lobbying by professional lobbyists that could mar the smooth conduct of the exercise. Observers who should know say that this adherence to civil/public service rules by the incumbent leadership of the NYSC may have informed the reason for the Presidential commendation. President Buhari said he is always pleased to see the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) achieving the purpose of national unity that inspired its creation since 1973.
Speaking to newsmen at his country home after the Eid-el-Kabir prayers few days back, Buhari said the NYSC scheme had over the years continued to pursue the purpose of integrating the country, noting that the diversity of cultures remained Nigeria’s greatest strength. “I am always pleased to see corps members in Daura and other parts of the country. From the postings, we get to learn more about other cultures,’’ he said.
The President said the large number of corps members in Daura, mostly from the Southern part of the country, was an indication that the dream of a unified Nigeria remained a reality. President Buhari noted that graduates from the North, who served in the Southern states, also learnt a lot from the diversity that had made Nigeria a unique country. Buhari observed that serving, as an army officer, in some Southern parts of the country such as Lagos and Ibadan were very rich experiences.
The President was accompanied to the Eid-el-Kabir prayers by Presidential aides, members of his family, and neighbours. These profound pronouncements of Buhari needs to be further and fully concretised by way of making sure that the necessary legislative reforms are introduced to provide legal, financial and manpower backups for the continuous implementation of the original mandates of the scheme. The private sector should be carried along so they make contributions by way of corporate social responsibility towards the establishment of vocations and skills training and empowerment centers within the state offices of the NYSC for the benefits of Nigerian youth population.
The NYSC scheme fundamentally, was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. As captured in the official website of the scheme, the current hierarchy is said to be working relentlessly to maintain the rich traditions of using the scheme as a major national platform for youth mobilisation towards adequate nation building and patriotism. Let’s look at the circumstances that gave birth to the NYSC so we can have a better appreciation of the need to support and consolidate the mandate of the institution to bring to a minimal level the cases of youth restiveness and agitations which have flared over the past few years.
The truth is that the unfortunate antecedents in our national history gave impetus to the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps by decree No.24 of 22nd May 1973 which stated that the NYSC is being established “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.”
To be continued tomorrow
•Onwubiko is head, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).